Although the Health and Safety Commission has stepped back from proposals for a direct get-tough approach towards fleet safety, decision-makers still risk prosecution if they fail in their duty of care to drivers.
David Faithful, solicitor and partner with Amery-Parkes, warned fleets that jail sentences could still be a reality they might have to face. He said: 'It is my view that in the event of a serious road incident, there is a risk that both the police and the Health and Safety Executive using their existing powers could prosecute employers for any number of offences.
'It is common knowledge that a suitable target is being sought to sound a warning to the fleet industry.'
Fleet News revealed exclusively in May that police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service were investigating crashes involving company cars to find a high-profile test case aimed at prosecuting any company breaching its duty of care to drivers.
This could involve forcing drivers to speed to reach appointments, or making them drive for excessively long hours, raising the risk of them causing an accident. The HSE has also raised the stakes on fleet safety by demanding to see corporate road risk policies during company safety audits.
It has approached a number of large fleets asking to see occupational road risk policies during routine visits looking at office and factory safety.
Faithful, who is also a non-executive director of risk management firm Risk Answers, warned: 'Fleets which do nothing are living on borrowed time, particularly as there also continues to be pressure from motor insurers for fleets to take action to reduce accidents, or alternatively, face the consequences of significant hikes in premiums.'